6th May 2011

The Right Thing

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”
Romans 14:19 (NIV UK)

Do you require that someone be right?

The late Czech writer, Milan Kundera, commented that religions are founded on man’s “innate and irrepressible desire to judge before he understands…they require that someone be right” (quoted from page 7 of The Art of the Novel, translated by Linda Asher, published in London by Faber and Faber, 1988). Sadly, sometimes we affirm such thinking by putting things into right or wrong boxes in our mind.

This was a major problem Paul faced with the early church in Rome. Believers there had strong opinions, and usually thought in terms of right and wrong.

Romans 14 begins with people “passing judgment on disputable matters” (14:1). Paul gives examples. The first is food. Why judge in this area? If someone wants to be a vegetarian, that is ok. If someone wants to eat meat, or whatever he or she chooses, that is also ok. Choices are allowable, and we should be tolerant.

He then gives another illustration, this time a very sensitive issue in some churches. Does it really matter when we meet as a church? Is there right and wrong in this? Paul’s response is that there is also freedom here. “Why do you judge your brother” (14:10), he asks in exasperation. “Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God” (14:22).

Of course there are areas that God spells out as right or wrong. Paul explains what they are in many places (for example, Galatians 5:16-26). But, Paul insists, life is not about assigning approval or disapproval to every aspect of life, or to every choice we make or that someone else makes.

This is why Paul tells us, through his letter to the Romans, to promote peace and not to enforce our freedom choices on others as if theirs are wrong and ours right. Sometimes the godly approach may be to subjugate our choices for the sake of others. “Each of us should please his neighbour for his own good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself” (15:2-3).

The Christian life is not all about our dividing life into what we think is either right or wrong. It is all about Jesus, and about how his love flows through us to others.

Loving Father, thank you for the freedom we have in Christ, and help us not to judge others by the choices we make.

Study by James Henderson

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